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For those intrepid travelers who aren’t satisfied by simply riding the rides at their favorite theme parks, there’s a whole new way to experience Disney, SeaWorld, and more. While these behind-the-scene tours have been around for some time, they’re always changing and revealing new secrets (but never quite giving away all the magic, of course). Here are four theme parks that give you behind-the-scenes access. Read more
In the world of luxury travel, few providers hold a candle to Abercrombie & Kent. A&K travel conjures up images of elegant, five-star accommodations, customized itineraries with expert guides, the finest of Michelin-rated dining, and cushy modes of transportation. And, of course, the hefty price tag that comes with all of those extravagances.
Looking for all that glitz on a budget? Consider A&K Connections, a new line of luxurious journeys for small groups of 24-28 guests that offers 17 itineraries from six continents. Some of the available destinations include Australia, France, India, Morocco, and Peru. I recently joined A&K on a preview of their “Spain: Seven Cities tour” to see firsthand what Connections is all about.
The cities that make up the title include Barcelona, Granada, Marbella, Gibraltar, Seville, Cordoba, and Madrid. Tally up the day-trips to Malaga, Ronda, and Jerez, however, and you’re looking at a whopping ten cities packed into a ten-day tour. The preview trip was condensed into seven-days. Needless to say, at times, this felt like a break-neck pace, even with Gibraltar sliced off the itinerary. I’d imagine the ten-day version to be just slightly less speedy.
Despite the pace, it’s hard to say which part of the trip I would eliminate to slow things down. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Simon Butler-Madden, an A&K vet who built many of the Connections itineraries, included all the sights we saw; the trip provides a cohesive overview of Spain’s diverse history, and how that history affected all aspects of modern Spanish and Catalonian culture. Read more
This whiskered mug (shown at right) was my last hurrah on Kauai before it was time to board a plane bound for covert Nextpedition destination #2.
Considering that I’m obsessed with any adorable wild creature – let alone one that waddles from the surf onto the beach before my very feet – this, I decided, was going to be a tough surprise act to follow.
When the plane’s wheels rolled down the runway in Honolulu, I have to admit that I still wasn’t entirely convinced that the second leg of my mystery trip could possibly live up to the past four days.
Just a few days into 2012, tour operators and travel companies in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras – the four countries also known as the Mundo Maya – have ramped up their promotions for the coming year, which marks the end of the Maya Long Count calendar on December 21.
More on the significance of the date below (hint: It has very little to do with the movie 2012), but it also means the coming months will see a surge in Maya-themed packages, trips, and offerings, with varying degrees of value and quality. One that recently hit my inbox appears to exceed the mark in terms of authenticity and adventure, while being supremely affordable: the Maya 2012 Passport, launched by the Belize Tourism Board. Read more
In Rome, a city not historically known for its gay friendliness (thanks, Vatican!), walls are nonetheless breaking down. This past June, EuroPride marched from Piazza dei Cinquecento through the center of the city to the Circus Maximus, with about a million participants overall. And now, the highly rated, English-language tour company Rome Walks is offering a queer eye into the Eternal City with their new gay-themed tour “Antinous’ Rome: For the Love of Hadrian.”
Classical history refresher: Back in those halcyon pre-gay days, Hadrian, arguably Rome’s most beloved emperor, was openly involved with a Greek boy named Antinous. While traveling through Egypt, Antinous drowned in the Nile River. Hadrian wept, and like all great men of worth and power (cough, Taj Mahal, cough), in his sorrow went on to deify his lover. Coins were minted with his image. Cities were named after him. And in his capital city, some of the grandest remaining monuments – Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo – and fantastic pieces of art were commissioned to the memory of his lover with “the perfect male form.” The End? Not quite. Read more
The capital of Nova Scotia is gearing up to commemorate the Titanic tragedy’s centennial anniversary in 2012 with a series of concerts, museum exhibitions, tours, and more. Halifax, set on Canada’s Atlantic coast, has profound ties to the legendary ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage on April 15, 1912 – it ended up serving as the final destination and resting place for some 150 of the bodies recovered at sea. More than 1,500 passengers and crew perished in the tragic wreck when the “unsinkable” ship plowed into an iceberg at high speeds. Read more
The Ultimate Nextpedition: How One Writer Signed Up For a Mystery Trip . . . and Found Herself Dangling From a Pacific Island Zipline
Tucked inside the parcel was my Nextpedition trip console – and an envelope that would reveal my first Farbarian-meets-Adrenalista-match-made-in-travel-heaven destination: Kauai!
Three days later, my husband and I were bound for the not-so-Farbarian town of Newark, N.J., to catch an 11-hour flight to Honolulu, where we’d hop a 30-minute flight to Lihue, Kauai.
When I was a kid, I loved surprises. I guess you could say this is true of most children. But while my best friends would call me in the early morning hours on Christmas day to hear what I’d gotten from Santa (no doubt so they could compare it with their own loot), what really got me excited had little to do with presents.
No, the surprise that could put me in an instant state of euphoric anticipation always started with a simple question posed by my dad: Want to go on a trip?
Twenty-some-odd years later, just the idea of exploring a new patch of our planet still does it to me every time.
For me, travel is the ultimate surprise in life because no matter how much you plan and strategize and agonize over the details, you can pretty much expect the unexpected. And I love every second of it.
I wouldn’t trade those magical, spur-of-the-moment travel experiences for anything, which is how I recently found myself taking the ultimate travel risk: I agreed to a seven-day vacation – without actually knowing where I was going.
Getting your own show on the Travel Channel? Most of us can just fuhgettaboudit! But born-and-bred Brooklynite Tony Muia has managed to do just that, with an upcoming pilot for a 2012-debut Travel Channel series, A Slice of Brooklyn, currently in the works. Owner and operator of A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Tony – a Bensonhurst native – turned his passion into showing people around his beloved hometown first into a bus tour, and now, a nationwide TV series.
The new show will be based on Tony’s A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour, which he developed after hearing complaints about subpar pizza options in Manhattan, and will feature Tony and a cast of Brooklyn characters (like his cousin Paula and assorted neighborhood buddies) that help him scout out Brooklyn’s best pizzerias, movie locations, and landmarks, with an authentic, only-in-Brooklyn commentary.
Here with Tony’s two cents on just what makes the borough great, as well as on what to expect from the upcoming show:
With the final movie installment released, Harry Potter fans seeking to hold on to the magic for a while longer will be pleased to know that the magic isn’t going anywhere. Universal Studios and Warner Bros. have just announced that their popular “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” park attraction in Orlando is also coming to Hollywood. The park will likely not open for a few years yet, and ride and feature details have yet to be released. Worry not, though, because Warner Bros. has more good news – starting March 31, 2012, you can participate in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London and see the sets, costumes, and props from the Harry Potter movies.
For more than ten years the Warner Bros. Studio Leavesden was home to the Harry Potter films, and the tour has a lot to show for it. You can enter the Great Hall, wander Dumbledore’s office, check out Harry’s Nimbus 2000, learn about the green screen effects used in the films, and see other sets and props. Tickets are already on sale (adult tickets are $44, children ages 5 to 15 get in for $33, and children under 5 are free), so if you’ll be in London and want to get your Potter on, be sure to make your reservation. www.wbstudiotour.co.uk
Ogling the recent viral video of a flock of starlings swooping and swirling about in a mesmerizing phenomenon known as murmuration (watch the stunning footage, shot by two tourists in Ireland, here) had me in a state of awe. So, I simply had to set out to uncover one of the best places for viewing the startling starling phenomenon firsthand (turns out that Somerset, England, is a hot-spot for just that). What’s more, watching the video brought to mind two recent closer-to-home experiences of a similar ilk that unfold in the most unexpected of places, with two U.S. cities that are quite simply for the birds (well, in one case, for the bats!). For culture vultures that swoop in on these urban locales for the regular city-pleasing sights, bites, and cultural might, there’s one unexpected surprise: The opportunity to engage in entirely unique bird- and bat-watching tours. From a bat bridge in Austin to stellar big bird-viewing in the Big Apple, these wildlife encounters comprise surprising and offbeat ecotourism experiences to spice up the standard city tour. Read more
It’s no secret that Brooklyn tourism is booming – if you’re looking to incorporate a visit to NYC’s hippest borough on your next visit to the Big Apple, first plan on bunking down at one of BK’s recently debuted hotels, then sign up for these two unique tour offerings, each affording bragging rights-worthy glimpses of the city that even most native New Yorkers are in the dark about. Whether you’re a film or history buff, each of these expertly executed tours are guaranteed to deliver a little of both, not to mention dole out some Brooklyn-savvy street cred. Read more
Earlier this week in the popular recurring segment, “Where in the World Is Matt Lauer?,” the NBC Today host schussed down the desert dunes of Namibia on skis. His graceful run made for good television, indeed, but in Namibia – as well as in Brazil, Chile, Peru, and other parts of Africa – sand-skiing and sandboarding are real-deal pastimes that have been gaining popularity in recent years.
Following in Lauer’s footsteps, er, ski tracks, takes a bit of effort, however. Unlike their cold-weather counterparts, sandboarding and sand-skiing don’t have an entire industry of package tour providers dedicated to them. Adventurers interested in trying them out will have to arrange a side excursion from an existing itinerary. But it’s a worthwhile effort – and one that makes for some great photo opps.
OutWest, one of the LGBT travel world’s top light adventure excursionists, has been taking small groups to faraway destinations since 1995. Widely known for their annual summertime Montana Dude Ranch weeks wrastling’ cattle over 12,000 acres of mountain range (already only five spots remain for next June 3 and July 22 now), they also venture as far and wide as Bhutan, Kilimanjaro, Israel, Costa Rica, and Aspen for Gay Ski Week, natch, with over 20 trips on the docket. Book their only South America destination in 2012 – Peru with Machu Picchu, May 26-June 2 – on sale throughout November, $200 off.
Conceived as a “Best of Peru” adventure, the guided 8-day itinerary includes the capital city of Lima, the highlands of Cuzco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and the lost city of Machu Picchu. As with every OutWest trip, business and life partners David and Aaron (a cellist and a cowboy, respectively) make sure luxuries and sweat combine for a balance that feels legit without skimping on the comfort. See the day-by-day outline below:
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